Top 5 Reasons to Get Outdoors With Your Dog

The days are getting shorter, the kids are back in school, and the crisp cool mornings are beginning to make an appearance once more.  You may be thinking that summer is officially coming to an end—but wait! There is still plenty of sunshine to soak in.  Let me give you some extra incentive to get out there and enjoy it with your pup!

1. Immune Boost
Sure, your Echinacea, vitamin C, and zinc supplements might help you from catching your coworker’s cold, but by spending sufficient time outside, your immune system will get a major boost!  A Japanese study showed that spending several hours in the woods boosted white blood cells (the ones that fight both viruses and cancer) for up to a week afterwards![1]

2. Mood Improvement
Whether you are chronically stressed out, depressed, or just occasionally moody, a walk outside may be your best ticket back to improved mental health.  In a study by the University of Michigan, researchers showed that subjects who recently underwent stressful life experiences (divorce, illness, etc.) had a statistically significant mood boost after an outdoor walk.[2]  Bad day at work?  Leash up your best friend and head outside!

3. Memory Aid
A simple walk in nature could help improve your short-term memory.  A study investigated this phenomenon by comparing two groups of participants: One group who walked in an urban environment and one who walked in an arboretum.  When they took a memory test afterwards, the arboretum group scored much better than the city street group![3]  This potential memory boost is not just good for you, but your dog too! He wants to make sure that you don’t forget the Zuke’s Jerky Naturals treat that you had promised him earlier. 
Getting outside with your dog is a great way to soak up some extra vitamin D

4. Double Your “D”
Did you know that approximately 85% of Americans are deficient in this crucial vitamin?  Ultraviolet rays (aka sunlight) help your body synthesize vitamin D, and people who don’t get enough of this fat-soluble vitamin sometimes suffer frequent infections, aches, pains, weakness, and fragile bones.  Sunscreen is always a good idea, but every now and then, it’s good to let a little sunlight warm your bare skin.  Ask your physician how much sunlight (versus vitamin D supplements) would be appropriate for you. 

5. Workouts
Do you move most of your workouts indoors once the leaves fall each year?  You might want to reconsider that.  In addition to all of the benefits listed above, consider this: you get more exercise “bang for your buck” by going outside.  You burn more calories and exercise a wider variety of muscle groups when you are negotiating rocks and branches, fighting wind resistance, and managing core body temperature. 

Think of it this way:  If you don’t get outside regularly, neither will your dog.  Regular outdoor exercise keeps your dog lean, muscular, and socialized to the world beyond the backyard.  While we can’t objectively measure mental health and short-term memory in our companion animals, our beloved pets will greatly benefit from their owners being as healthy and happy as possible.  The health boosting properties of owning pets has been studied time and again.[4]  Let’s return the favor to our furry friends!


[1] Li Q et al.  “A forest bathing trip increases human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins in female subjects” J. Biol. Regul. Homest. Agents 2008 Jan-Mar: 22(1): 45-55

[2] Melissa R Marselle, Ph.D. “Examining group walks in nature and multiple aspects of well-being: A large scale study” Ecopsychology, DOI: 10.1089/eco.2014.0027

[3] Marc G. Berman et al. “The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature” Psychological Science 2008 Dec vol 19 no 12: 1207-1212

[4] JK Vormbrock and JM Grossberg “Cardiovascular effects of human-pet dog interactions” J. Behavior Med. 1988 Oct; 11(5):509-17

Disclaimer: This information is educational in nature and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical prevention, diagnosis, or treatment.

Dr. Jen Deming

Jennifer Deming, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and member of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition. She strives to improve her patients' wellness through nutrition counseling and preventative medicine. Dr. Deming lives, works, and plays in the beautiful community of Durango, Colorado.